Afghan Trilateral Training Program

The U.S. – China Training Programs for Afghan Cooperation and Reconstruction brought 26 agricultural and public health experts from Afghanistan to participate in a Meridian program focused on leadership development for Afghan professionals. These annual programs have become potent and high-profile symbols of U.S.-China cooperation in helping Afghanistan become a secure, stable, and prosperous country.  This exchange builds on successful and similar exchanges for Afghan diplomats and traditional leaders.  Part of a multi-year, multi-sector effort, the goals of the program include: (1) Build the capacity of personnel in key sectors of the Afghan government, economy, or civil society, thereby enhancing their ability to work cooperatively and effectively with the U.S. government and other countries and strengthen reconstruction efforts, and; (2) Promote regional integration by facilitating a dialogue on cooperation, regional stability, and economic and diplomatic linkages for Afghan professionals in key sectors.
The two-week program opened in Washington, DC with a targeted focus on U.S.-Afghan relations as well as how policy is formulated, highlighting agricultural and public health policies as case studies. Highlights include:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture – The agriculture cohort spent ½ day with counterparts at USDA for a thorough briefing on how policy is made but were especially impressed with the role of public-private partnerships, i.e. surprised to learn that virtually all of agriculture and livestock production, processing, marketing and sales are led by the private sector.  They also received a background on the U.S. Farm Bill and other support programs to help farmers plan, both new concepts for this group.
  • Leadership Development Training on Change Management – a one-day training was offered to provide the group with skills and tools for implementing new ideas in their positions at home – assuming they would face challenges both in building consensus and managing up – i.e. convincing superiors to try new ideas.  Workshops on values clarification, asset mapping, and needs assessment enabled each participant to work towards SMART goals – specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and time specific.
  • U.S. Agency for International Development – this joint meeting offered a unique opportunity for participants to share with international development experts’ ideas for AID investment and engagement in both agricultural and public health programs.

The larger group then split along subject areas and traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina for a four-day examination of local/regional agriculture, specifically highlighting livestock management and Springfield, Massachusetts for a four-day program focused on maternal health and access to healthcare. Parallel programming in each city included opportunities to meet with state and local government, academic experts, NGOs and professional counterparts in their respective sector, as well as site visits to farms and hospitals/clinics.  Each program track also offered a holistic look at the sector – i.e. farm to table and pre-natal preventive health-care to child and family services. Highlights include:

  • North Carolina Farm Bureau – Cited as one of the most useful meetings for the agriculture cohort, several hope to create a similar structure to support individual farmers in Afghanistan.  They were able to see how farmers organize and advocate and experience the “farm-to-table” concept.
  • Baystate Midwifery Education Program – This was a unique opportunity for the five midwives in the public health group to experience a simulated birth experience and an eye-opening discussion addressing differences in American and Afghan maternal health practices.

The project closed in Boston, Massachusetts where participants shared feedback on their experience.  Noted observations included: “Americans are hardworking, social, and friendly, and working to support their nation.  The history of America is less than 300 years but the progress is great. Creative minds of Americans and commitment to cooperation all contribute;” “I saw first-hand how society can benefit from overall stability and tranquility;” “there are a lot of resources we have in Afghanistan.  This program opened my eyes on to better use those resources.”

Project summary

Afghan Trilateral Training Program | December 2016
Number of Visitors: 26
Regions: South and Central Asia
Countries: Afghanistan, China, United States
Impact Areas: Global Health, Food Security
Program Areas: Training